Cutting to the Core (Values)

Years ago, and I mean years ago, I sat through a professional development session at my work. Now these things were not nearly as exciting as they are today, but at least we didn't have to suffer through 'death by Powerpoint'.

In between all the "I wish I had a pencil to poke my eye out" presentations, there was one presentation that stuck with me for years. I don't remember anything about the speaker or the rest of the presentation, but the following bit of the session has stuck with me to this day.

Caveat: This post isn't meant to be a great treatise on psychology, and I'm sure a number of readers would disagree, but this simplified view of a complex subject has been most useful to me in my journey in leadership.

The speaker wrote 3 words on the flip chart. (I told you it was years ago) 

Beliefs, Philosophies, Principles 

Beliefs he explained were the first filter we process things through before we react. We typically ask ourselves during the decision making process "Do I believe it's a good thing or not?"  The trouble is, our beliefs can be easily influenced to change by external factors. Having just finished Martin Lindstrom's new book Brandwashed I am more convinced of this than ever.

The second filter we use is our philosophies. While they are more rigid than our beliefs, they are generally defined by the community we hang out with. Think Boston RedSox fans (sorry, couldn't resist the dig today), bikers, professional associations, faith communities. We all draw filters from the communities we associate with. While more rigid, they still change. 

The third, and most critical filter is our principles, or core values. These are the uncompromising values that ultimately govern our behaviour. They are generally few in number, but they are things we are willing to die for (at least metaphorically).

As a leader, you should be able to write out your core values at a moment's notice. Even if you can't articulate them, they still govern your approach and reaction to life and the things it throws at you. That's why it is so important for you to know what steers your rudder.

I was recently reminded of this subject by a posting on Geoffrey Webb's Blog called "My 3 Core Values as a Leader".

He asked the readers to respond with their core values.

Here are mine:
Truth – Where there is truth, there is freedom, dignity and respect. It’s about a bigger agenda than my own.
Trust – I cannot do this alone. I need to both trust others (their skills, intentions and word) while being wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove) and earn the trust of those I serve.
Empowerment – I’m not leading people if they are not growing and doing things they couldn’t do before; helping them to find their potential. Otherwise I’m just managing the operation. 
So... Let me ask you. What are your core values?

Related Posts: 
Getting ready for your next presentation 
CIO: Know Thyself... 
We are our own worst enemy.


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